ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A split second, selfless act by a mother who’s also an APS teacher saved her son and an Albuquerque public service aide from being run down by a suspected drunk driver.
Because she saved them, she couldn’t get out of the way. She was hit and nearly killed.
First grade teacher Tonya McCullough is in the hospital, and she’s badly banged up. She is clearly a hero, but she told KRQE News 13 it was just her mother’s instinct kicking in.
In a split second, McCullough jumped in front of a suspected drunk driver to save two others.
“It was pretty scary, but I think my momma bear instincts just kicked in,” McCullough told KRQE News 13 from her hospital bed.
McCullough was standing on the sidewalk Wednesday evening on Montgomery, responding to a minor car accident involving two of her three sons, when police say 43-year-old Scott Knowles swerved right toward the scene.
McCullough pushed one of her teenage sons and an APD public service aide out of the way.
“And myself, I just didn’t quite make it,” she said.
She suffered several broken bones including her leg, pelvis, ribs, tailbone and both her arms.
“She’s brave. She saved that young man’s life, my son’s life,” said her husband, Stephen McCullough. “I’m just glad she’s here to live through this.”
Her husband said the suspect got out of his truck at the scene, saw McCullough on the ground, then sped away, but police stopped him a short time later.
McCullough recalled the moment when she was on the ground, not being able to feel her lower body.
“I was really scared because I knew it was serious, and I just told my kids I love them,” she said. “I just knew that I needed to breath to stay with them, because I’m not ready to go yet.”
McCullough’s first grade students at John Baker Elementary have a message for their teacher.
“I hope you feel better, Mrs. McCullough, and I miss you,” said one of her students, Aiden Mata.
Parents and students are calling her a hero.
“She has to be very brave to do something like that,” said Lourdes Mata, Aiden’s grandmother.
McCullough said she can forgive the driver, and hopes this serves as a lesson for him to not drink and drive again. She had surgery Thursday and is expected to make a full recovery.
Tonya wasn’t the only one to think fast. One of her sons got the license plate of the pickup and police quickly found and arrested the suspected drunk driver. Police said Knowles admitted to drinking a bottle of wine before he got behind the wheel. He’s charged with DWI and great bodily harm by vehicle.
McCullough said she’s been getting a lot of support.
“Thank you everybody for all the prayers. They’ve been coming in and it’s really helped,” she said. “It means a lot to me and my family.”